With the eyes of the nation on last night's vice presidential debate, both candidates acquitted themselves better than expected. Republican candidate Gov. Sarah Palin had to show viewers she was not the glib-talking, former beauty queen- turned-hockey mom caricatured on Saturday Night Live. She easily passed that test, despite moments of evident discomfort when she clearly chose to answer the questions she wanted to answer, rather than those posed by moderator Gwen Ifill.
Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, who has had his own history of embarrassing misstatements, was stronger on the issues and gave what may have been the best debate performance of his career. He won on debating points but Governor Palin more than held her own and emerged as a forceful and poised advocate for her party. Mrs. Palin addressed the audience in a folksy, down-home manner that allowed her to sharply criticize the policies of her opponents, Mr. Biden and Sen. Barack Obama, without seeming to attack them personally. She was best outlining her energy policy and she repeatedly tried to connect her experience as an Alaska governor and mayor to her understanding of the concerns of ordinary Americans.
Mr. Biden emphasized his roots in working class Scranton, portraying himself as the guy down the block and not the long-winded veteran of Washington. But he pointedly reminded voters again and again that an Obama-Biden candidacy was about changing the broken culture in Washington and the failed foreign and economic policies of the Bush administration.
This was a solid debate, but it wasn't a game changer for either side. Governor Palin surely met the expectations of conservative Republicans to represent their point of view, while Senator Biden drove home the theme that his party was committed to improving things for the middle class.